Newsletter 631 – Why Face-to-Face Contact Matters

Susan PinkerIn 2004 following my only experience as a surgery patient, the doctor made a prediction that proved to be accurate. He said that I’d make a complete and relatively speedy recovery. In addition to good medical care he commented on several positive signs, including my overall good physical shape based on consistent exercise, the “spirituality” that he saw, a determination to get better, my sense of humor (it beats complaining), and the social support that came from family and friends. At times I thought of this while reading psychologist Susan Pinker’s fascinating book, The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter.

This is not a self-help book built on inspiration and subjective opinions. Pinker does include captivating illustrative stories but, in addition, she reports on her interviews with a variety of experts and ordinary people, plus references to an impressive body of scholarly research. For example, the book documents ways in which face-to-face contact contribute to athletic success, language learning, brain development, overall health, longer life, stronger marriage, spiritual growth and better recovery from surgery like mine over ten years ago. Pinker’s work demonstrates her wide knowledge of brain functioning and neurophysiology as these relate to everyday behavior, stress-management and life fulfillment. The Village Effect is written by one of those rare scholars who is able to engage readers, write clearly, and make empirical evidence interesting and relevant.

Here are summary conclusions adapted from comments on the book’s cover:

  • People with tight circles of friends who gather regularly are likely to live an average of fifteen years longer than loners.
  • Social contact at the beginning of life helps us cope with stress later on.
  • The lowest rate of dementia appears in people with extensive face-to-face social networks.
  • A hug or a pat on the back lowers one’s physiological stress response, which in turn helps the body fight infections.
  • Women with breast cancer who have large networks of friends are four times as likely to survive as those with sparser social connections.

This is an impressive summary of what most of us suspect or know. But in what practical ways does this book’s message relate to your work, career, relationships and lifestyle? We’ll have more on this next week. Meantime, please feel free to leave a comment.

2 Comments

  1. Gday Gary Just wanted to briefly comment on this one . I dont generally do so as I am now not doing Pastoral Ministry these days [Supposedly Retired].However what you have summarised seems to gel with what I have experienced over years of Ministry. Simply …the Face to Face contact always stimulated my Ministry [even the Negative Responses that I received time after time]. Looking forward to the next weeks effort. Hope You and Julie are keeping well Mate . I have some good days and some not so good ones but still limping along. Miss my Heather so Much….. 10 years this December since she went to Heaven. Bless You My Good Friend. John Mills [Down Under].

    Reply

  2. “In what practical ways does this book’s message relate to your work, career, relationships and lifestyle?”
    This message comes in a timely manner, for this aging Asperger has slowly lost contact with almost everyone.
    Other oldsters prove so boring to me and I to them, and younger folk seem oblivious to a treasure-chest of informed experience across several continents, languages and careers.
    I must find some friends, but where? I tried church, only to find the role constraints impenetrable.

    Reply

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